Stretching. Part 1

What is it?
Everybody stretches in one way or another. It may be when you first get out of bed and reach your arms towards the ceiling to help wake yourself up. It may be when you stretch out your legs after sitting in a car or at a desk for a long time. Those simple routines feel great, but do little to improve or maintain flexibility.

Performing regular stretching exercises is your best bet for staying limber and flexible. A key component of physical fitness, flexibility is the mobility or range of motion in a joint. A progressive stretching routine conditions the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones so that you can move more easily. It should be part of any comprehensive exercise program.

Done frequently, on a regular basis, stretching is your greatest defense against the ravages of inflexibility. It increases agility, improves posture, relieves low back pain and sciatica (a radiating pain in the thighs or buttocks along the sciatic nerve), reduces muscle soreness and the risk of injury, enhances athletic performance, and promotes relaxation. It does not require special equipment or attire other than comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. In fact, you can stretch anywhere!

Stretching is often neglected because people typically find it boring, tedious or painful. Many people overlook the important benefits of stretching so it is given low priority. It does require patience. Stretching cannot be rushed in order to be safe and effective. If you over-stretch, you will stretch your ligaments rather than your muscles, and they will become weakened, leaving you prone to injury.

Muscles respond better to stretching when they are warmed up. Therefore, you will either need to fit in a warm-up routine such as jogging in place for five minutes or perform your stretches after your regular cardiovascular workout (walking, bicycling, etc.).

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